Monday, August 1st, 2011

Adventures in Paywalls: The 'Longshot' Magazine Nagwall

Over the weekend, a group of loony volunteers and writers put out the third issue of Longshot magazine, which is a very attractive product in print particularly and you may buy that right here. (The huge vault of radio programming is also incredible if you like listening to things!) The shtick is that it's all written and built and published in 48 hours.

But that's not the most interesting thing about it, if you care about the digital age. So here we are in this wacky new time, after the New York Times debuted their intentionally porous metered paywall, after the Financial Times' strict subscriber-only paywall, and all the versions in-between, from half-subscriber-only to complete lockdown, and it's a great question about what to do that's right. The Longshot web team (led by Adam Hemphill) came up with a fascinating iteration. Their nagwall appears after a good amount of browsing—you can read quite a bit without being harassed. And then it asks you to consider giving one of two different kinds of currency: it wants you to share the site with a friend or to straight-up give money. Equal value!

It also gives you something most paywalls don't have: a big option to "ignore." It'll crop up again, eventually.

And they also built something wonderful, which looks like they've commented-out in the code right now, so it's not happening (you try building an actual magazine website from scratch in 48 hours), but they built it so that, if users clicked through to give money via Paypal, and then didn't actually follow-through, a friendly message would acknowledge that choice.

The thinking behind this idea seems really sound to me! It's a direct ask for something people can give. It's definitely not a demand. It's good-humored. And it's a relatively simple interface. I'd love to see what people build on from there.

(And of course, there are things to read on this website. If I had to play favorites in the magazine, it'd be this account of a bill collectors' fake courtroom. Though there's a wonderful Paul Ford piece and this story by Mike Barthel about being an accounts payable manager is great, and I loved this piece on our aging water contracts in the West and, OH, here is one really remarkable thing, a small collection of emails received by a "small independent magazine" about paying writers. But, of course, print is a different experience—for instance, there's a hilarious Dan Kois thing that is magazine-only!)

13 Comments / Post A Comment

Dan Kois (#646)

I think maybe it is the first thing I have ever written that is NOT on the internet, which is kind of funny given that this magazine couldn't exist without the internet.

deepomega (#1,720)

Like this solution a lot – not least because it matches the aesthetic of the site and the pieces, and also feels kind of topical to the theme. Now if only there was a secure one-click give-a-dollar-to-a-website technology, the equivalent to throwing a dollar bill on the table.

deepomega (#1,720)

Also, Choire, you still owe me money for that recipe I wrote. I believe standard awl rate is 50 bucks per exclamation mark?

iantenna (#5,160)

unfortunately, like most things on the internet today, it doesn't work with whatever ancient version of IE i use. the "ignore" button is non-functional. god, inertia is a bitch.

Isn't this violating Facebook/Twitter terms of use? I've seen a similar idea that would get rid of adverts in an iPhone app after sharing the app on Facebook but later it turned out that it violates Facebook's terms for applications.

jfruh (#713)

Really surprised not find an angry screed in the comments yet about how completely free content on the Internet is a human right and that's just how the Internet works and GET OVER IT, people who write things I enjoy, for wanting to continue doing that instead of moving to more lucrative careers.

As one of the web team members, I just want to say that I know we're all excited about how well-received the nagwall has been.

Additionally, Dan Kois' piece not being online is an oversight on our part. And we're still working out the IE bugs, so apologies that it's not working properly there yet!

Aatom (#74)

I'll probably regret pointing this out, but this tactic would work on me here at The Awl as well. I love the PBS model of asking for donations (without the 10-hour snoozefest begging sessions) and relying in part on the generosity of your audience. I'd happily contribute small amounts of money when I have it to my favorite sites, especially if they asked in a clever and simple way. I've often thought Tumblr could get away with this type of thing.

@Aatom I just posted below… FYI Here at Znak it! we offer a similar solution but instead of clicking to ignore, reader can opt to view an ad or sponsored material and thus "earn" access to paid content. It is also one extra click but a win-win situation for all involved. Let me know if you are interested.

I would love to point out (and so I am!) that this was not even an idea on Thursday. Adam and Heather and (see above!) came up with this idea and had to talk me into it because I am quite dense and it is wonderful and makes me happy. And it's *nuts* that they made it so fast. It majes me feel like I am a very slow person.

I too am a fan of the nagwall and hope the idea spreads, although we in pub radio placed nagging at the core of our business model a long time ago. So, I support any method that moves media consumption to a pay what you think is fair approach. Mat, let us know if more money comes in from nagging, or print issue orders. I'm gonna guess nags.

carpetblogger (#306)

I am old and slow but why does firefox tell me longshot magazine wants to store data on my computer for offline use?

joeclark (#651)

I see from the other coverage that Mr. SICHA was one of the volunteer editrons.

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